(RxWiki News) Have you heard about the bug-borne disease that can last for months or years and infects hundreds of thousands of Americans annually?
It's called Lyme disease. This tick-borne illness is on the rise in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that roughly 476,000 Americans contract the illness each year.
Read on to learn more about Lyme disease and how to prevent it.
What Causes Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is transmitted through tick bites and can lead to fever, headaches, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash. Without treatment, this disease can affect the nervous system, heart and joints.
This illness is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. There are many types of ticks, and not all ticks transmit this bacteria. Only infected blacklegged ticks transmit Lyme disease.
In order for these blacklegged ticks to transmit Lyme disease, they have to be attached for at least 24 hours. This is why it's extremely important to promptly and regularly check your body for ticks if you spend time outdoors and remove the tick immediately if found.
How to Prevent Lyme Disease
Lyme disease may sound scary, but you can take some steps to lower your risk.
1. Prevent Tick Bites
Ticks live in grassy or wooded areas, so if you will be spending time outdoors, apply insect repellent as directed by product instructions.
Look for products that contain any of the insect repellents recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency: DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or 2-undecanone.
Furthermore, you can treat your clothing with permethrin.
2. Perform Tick Checks
If you have spent time outdoors, check yourself for ticks — even if you were just spending time in your own yard. For not-so-visible areas of the body, use a handheld mirror. Although you will need to check your entire body, pay extra attention to the following areas:
- Under the arms
- In and around the ears
- Inside the belly button
- Backs of the knees
- In and around all head and body hair
- Between the legs
- Around the waist
Also, remove any ticks found on your clothing. And shower within two hours of coming inside from the outdoors.
3. Look for the Bull's-Eye Rash
One of the symptoms of Lyme disease is a characteristic rash. The rash looks like a red bull's eye and is hard to miss. If you notice this type of rash, contact your doctor.
4. Remove Ticks Quickly and Correctly
As soon as you notice a tick, remove it with fine-tipped tweezers. Be sure to hold the tick as close to the skin as possible. Next, pull straight up without twisting or crushing the tick. If you twist or jerk the tick, there is a chance the mouth-parts will break off and remain in the skin. (If the mouth-parts remain, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth-parts easily, you can leave it alone, letting the skin heal.)
Next, clean the area and your hands with soap and water or rubbing alcohol. Then, discard the tick by placing it in alcohol, sealing it in a bag, wrapping it in tape or flushing it down the toilet. Never try to crush a tick with your fingers.
If it has been less than 24 hours since the tick attached itself to your skin, your chance of getting Lyme disease is small. It is important to note, however, that ticks may transmit other diseases. Continue to monitor for rash or fever. If you notice a red bull's-eye rash or a fever, contact your health care provider.
5. Make Sure Your Yard Is Tick-Free
Wherever there are deer, there may be ticks. Deer are the main food source of adult ticks. Try to keep deer away from your yard. Create a barrier to prevent deer from entering your yard, and remove plants that may attract deer.
In addition, make sure your yard is well-maintained to remove potential tick hiding places. This means clearing tall grasses and brush.
If you have been bitten by a tick and are showing symptoms, reach out to your health care provider.